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Valley Metro Bus Operators Strike Leaves Thousands Of Passengers Stranded
Thousands of people in the southeast valley are looking for ways to get around town Thursday as a bus strike continues. About 400 bus operators with the Valley Metro system stopped work after midnight Thursday.
A few dozen bus operators walked the picket lines outside of their headquarters in Tempe.
“Who are we?" the strikers chanted. "ATU! What do we do? Move this city!"
The bus drivers rejected a contract proposal Wednesday and went on strike. Leaders of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 14-33 said 95 percent of the drivers voted against the proposed contract Wednesday.
That will stop service on 40 routes, in Tempe, Mesa, Chandler, Gilbert and some routes in Scottsdale and Ahwatukee Foothills. It also stops express service from those areas to Phoenix and Scottsdale.
Shirley Henderson-Manley has been a bus driver in the valley for 18 years. She said the drivers have been told negotiations will continue.
“And if it's anything good then maybe we’ll be out there moving you all tomorrow. If not then we’ll be right back out here walking all night all day tomorrow until as long as it take(s," Henderson-Manley said.
Valley Metro spokeswoman Susan Tierney said while there is no bus option available for many of those riders, the agency is looking at alternative service that is viable.
"We do not want them sitting out in the heat waiting for a bus and then when a bus comes it's a full bus, and they aren't able to board and so that just adds to their frustration," Tierney said.
Kirsten Richardson is a passenger who uses the bus to get to school and work in Tempe. She said she is frustrated about having to find an alternate way to travel around the city.
“I feel like that is an inconvenience and it is probably for a lot of students and people who live in the local area just because of the parking situation in Tempe. To get anywhere it's really difficult and expensive, and having a cheap form of transportation is really convenient,” said Richardson.
Richardson is looking for a new way to get to school and work during the strike.
“I’ll either have to walk or probably take the light rail and use park and ride," Richardson said.
Union Representatives said they are ready to go back to the negotiations table this Thursday afternoon with First Transit, the company that operates the bus system in the southeast valley. The two sides are divided over health care costs and job security measures for bus operators.
The union said drivers were asked to work for the same pay but accept increases in their health care contributions and give management increased firing rights.
Light rail service is not affected by the walkout.
Dennis Lambert and Steve Shadley contributed to this report.
Updated 8/1/13 at 2:11 p.m.